Once again, I was lucky enough to win another book to review from the Pot Luck draw for Waterstones cardholders a few weeks ago. This time, it was ‘Crossing to Safety’ by Wallace Stegner which was first published in 1987 a few years before his death and has recently been reprinted by Penguin Classics featuring an introduction by Jane Smiley. You can read my brief review here on the Waterstones website under the name Clare90. ‘Crossing to Safety’ tells the story of the friendship between two couples, Sally and Larry Morgan and Sid and Charity Lang. When they first meet during the Great Depression, Sid and Larry are both English Literature professors at the University of Wisconsin while Charity and Sally are both pregnant. The story is told from Larry’s point of view as he looks back on various episodes in their lives over the decades.
I’ll admit that I had never heard of Wallace Stegner before receiving this book but I enjoyed ‘Crossing to Safety’ very much. The interactions between the characters are very skilfully and subtly written and Stegner makes some intriguing observations about human behaviour, emotions and relationships. I found Charity in particular to be a very strong, complex and memorable character. The pace of the novel is very slow and there is little in the way of a plot as such. However, even though the writing is quite descriptive, it isn’t overly flowery or pretentious. I would say that one of Stegner’s main skills is the way in which he manages to tackle a large number of complex themes related to marriage, friendship and old age even in fairly low-key scenes.
Overall, if you enjoy novels based on strong character portraits, then you would definitely enjoy ‘Crossing to Safety’. Highly recommended.